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India's transgender talk show host

5 March 08 12:37 GMT

A controversial new talk show has hit TV screens in southern India.

The programme, "Ipadikku Rose", is not only unusual in its subject matter but its new host has certainly broken from the ranks.

The programme is hosted by Rose, who used to be a boy called Ramesh.

She is India's first transgender person to host their own talk show on TV.

BBC World Service's Outlook programme spoke to Rose about her new show.

"I expect a lot of positive reaction to the choosing of me as an anchor," she said.

Tackling taboos

The show will also tackle topics that are socially taboo in India.

"We will be tackling subject that are very controversial in nature, from gay rights to sexual abuse and prostitution," said Pradeep Milroy Peter, the station's head of programming.

"All the issues that have been hushed up and put under the carpet."

The first episode aired on Thursday and dealt with the issue of sexual harassment of women.

Five guests, including two girls, a couple and an academic participated along with a studio audience.

Next up is an episode on exploitation of women in the world of modelling.

"The early response to the show has been good," said Rose.

She studied for a master's degree in biomedical engineering in the US and worked as a web site designer before she returned home to Madras (Chennai).

Some of her family are still not willing to accept her sexuality.

"Not all of them have accepted me with open hands," she said.

She did not start dressing as a woman until she was in her early twenties.

Now at 28, she has long hair and wears feminine clothes everyday.

"Deep inside I relished being a girl," she said.

Being aware

Rose became aware of her femininity when she was around five-years-old and felt uncomfortable being a boy.

It took her years to tell her family how she felt, but when she did, her family was devastated.

"My mum was shattered, she burst out in tears and my dad was full of sorrow," she said.

When she returned to India after studying in the US, her family were under the impression that they could retain her as a man.

They even looked at marriage as a "possible solution" to try and change her.

Tradition versus perception

Transsexuals are know as or "hijras" in India.

Traditionally they have been surrounded by superstition and myth but modern society has been less tolerant of them.

Many are shunned by their families and find it hard to obtain conventional jobs and turn instead to begging and prostitution for a living.

Even though Rose is set for TV stardom, her life has been difficult since she has come out.

"I have been publicly ridiculed, called names and looked down upon.

"There has also been physical abuse," she said.

However, she is optimistic that her show will change society's attitude towards transgender people and put them in a more positive light.

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